Obedient, cheerful robots are making us terrible at relationships

In an age of increasing isolation—for the elderly as well as their younger peers—robotic companions are being marketed as a way to fulfill the emotional needs of lonely humans. To date, however, much of robot design has avoided incorporating the challenging dynamics of social relationships into their products’ functionalities. From virtual assistants to robotic pets, tech companies are offering up endlessly compliant, cheerful companions that allow us to avoid the vulnerability, discomfort, and confrontation that so often accompanies our human interactions.

Courtney Maum

Old models

What were your teachers like at school? Did you enjoy being taught by them? Did they inspire you? Did they bring out the best in you? Or do you think they were inadequate as teachers? Did your teachers shape your view and outlook on life after you left school? Is there still something about what they have taught you that still sticks with you? Did you ever meet your old teachers again later on in life? Are you a teacher and do you try and model yourself on a favourite teacher?

J (Joe) at TinyBuddha.com

Old School

Image from page 58 of "Textile school catalog, 1899-1900" (1899)The education system as we know it is only about 200 years old. Before that, formal education was mostly reserved for the elite. But as industrialization changed the way we work, it created the need for universal schooling.

Factory owners required a docile, agreeable workers who would show up on time and do what their managers told them. Sitting in a classroom all day with a teacher was good training for that. Early industrialists were instrumental, then, in creating and promoting universal education. Now that we are moving into a new, post-industrial era, it is worth reflecting on how our education evolved to suit factory work, and if this model still makes sense.

Allison Schrager

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